Libraries – where people and ideas meet

How can we encase library expertise when its constituents are ever-increasingly being transferred into electronic form? In a small language region such as Finland, this development has been slow; however, the pace is accelerating. A new reality in reading and in book production chain will meet libraries in upcoming years when a standard e-book device becomes established. The development of material for music has provided a sneak preview of what is to come. When observing the habits young people have in reading and acquiring information, one has to ask what do they need libraries for?

The Council for Public Libraries sought answers to significant challenges in the strategy-developing work. An array of measures was gathered under the title of the finished document, Library 2015 – where people and ideas meet, with which libraries planned to claim their fame in the future. The vision was elaborated with words such as ‘the library inspires’, ‘the library astonishes’, and ‘the library provides strength’. These words took flight immediately; they were the basis for the theme of the 2012 World Library and Information Congress, which is being organized by the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions (IFLA), to take place in Helsinki.

A strategy was clearly needed. Today, effectiveness is demanded from services paid for with the taxpayers’ money. Those who have a clear understanding of their role in society now and in the future will come out on top. The Council for Public Libraries also wanted to form a shared future prospect of the field. For this reason, the compilation of the strategy was done collectively. The draft was revised many times in national and regional library meetings. A Wiki version was also made.

There was significant discussion about the public libraries’ values; the core values include reliability, equality, openness, freedom to obtain information, sense of community and open-mindedness. The meaning of these values was defined; for example, open-mindedness refers to the ability to embrace risks when testing new types of services and in internal operations, such as in observing other fields and learning from them.

Twelve crucial goals lie at the heart of the strategy:
• To develop activities together with patrons
• To ensure the opening hours suit patrons’ needs
• To change libraries into meeting places rather than keeping them as places for storing collections
• To enhance marketing expertise
• To network into new directions
• To engage in library projects with significance on the national level
• To support shared, interactive network services
• To automate routine activities
• To reinforce leadership and management
• To upgrade library work done on the net
• To teach other skills needed in an information society
• To engage in innovation and possess strong spirit.

These goals were broken down into sub-goals, which were addressed to both the Council for Public Libraries and public libraries in general.

The strategy was published as a stylish brochure geared toward decisionmakers and as a longer version intended for libraries. Indeed, part of the strategy has already been implemented. In the upcoming years, the strategy will become the most significant precept for the activities in the Council for Public Libraries, and it will be closely followed in libraries as well.

Tuula Haavisto
Director of Libraries, City of Tampere
Chairperson for the Council for Public Libraries in Finland

Director of Libraries, Tampere, Finland